Hugh little beauty
HAS the time come for Hugh Jackman to hang up his claws as Wolverine for good? The 44- year- old is riding high, with new adult suspense thriller Prisoners topping the US box office and drawing the Australian actor the best reviews of his career.
There’s plenty of buzz that his powerhouse performance as a father driven to extremes to locate his young daughter could result in a second Oscar nomination, following this year’s best actor nod for Les Miserables.
Some now wonder if his recent form creates the perfect opportunity for Jackman to gracefully bow out of the role that made him a star.
“Is Wolverine now a liability for Hugh Jackman’s career?” Variety recently asked in typically hyperbolic fashion recently, pointing out US box office returns for this year’s The Wolverine were a third down on its predecessor, suggesting audience fatigue with the character ( worldwide takings for the two films, however, were similar).
But perhaps more importantly, when X Men: Days of Future Past opens next year, Jackman will have played the hairy mutant in seven movies over 15 years, longer than Daniel Radcliffe spent as Harry Potter, and in more than twice as many movies as superhero actors like Christian Bale ( Batman) and Tobey Maguire ( Spider- Man) dared for fear of typecasting.
Having finally gained career momentum outside of the X Men franchise in the past two years with Real Steel, Les Mis and now Prisoners – after trying and failing with films such as Van Helsing, Scoop, Australia and The Fountain – the argument is the last thing Jackman needs to do is to go back to the well once more and reinforce the idea he’s nothing more than a mutant with lethal claws and even more dangerous sideburns.
Three weeks after filming his last scene on X Men: Days of Future Past, Jackman confirmed he had been turning that question over in his mind, but had “deliberately made no decision about it”.
“I do know there is an expiry date. This is just coming from my end, I’m fully aware the power more comes from the fans and the studio than it does from me, but there will come the right time to leave and I can tell you right now, it will have to be a very compelling case for me to come back to do it,” he said.
“I have to admit, I really loved playing this character in this film [ Prisoners] and I’m probably looking, in a way, to play similar types of powerful and dramatic parts.”
If there’s a connection between Wolverine, and survivalist father Keller Dover in Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, it’s their anger.
For the former, it’s a broad- brush, comic book- style of brooding anti- hero anger.
In the latter, it’s a mesmerising and believable fury born of frustration and fear, as the minutes and hours tick by with the police, represented by Jake Gyllenhaal’s Detective Loki, seemingly incapable of finding his child and her friend.
In desperation, Keller takes police suspect Alex ( Paul Dano) prisoner and tortures him in to find answers.
It’s curious that two of Jackman’s most successful roles are such angry characters, as everyone seems to consider the actor to be one of the most pleasant and down to earth people in Hollywood.
While he admitted to being “angry in my youth” Jackman said he had mellowed into a “moderate slash boring character” who’s fairly even tempered.
But Prisoners, he said, is about the hidden depths in all of us that you don’t know how far you’ll go until you’re pushed to extremes.
While you might assume he drew on his experiences as a father to fuel the raw power of his performance, he said he was reluctant to empathise too strongly.
“To imagine your own kid in that situation is just too strong a trigger to actually allow you as an actor to play and move around,” he said.
Instead he researched real- life cases where parents had reacted in similar ways.
“Time and time again this stuff plays out and people do way worse things,” he said. “I remember reading about a father whose fiveyear- old went missing. How maddening it is that every second you know your child is waiting for you to come and get him, not the cops or anyone else.
“You see stuff like that and that can get you there.”
Just watching Prisoners for parents of young children is hard enough, so playing the role must have had some lasting impact on the actor, no matter how hard he tried to compartmentalise it. Jackman conceded there had been a darkening in his world view.
“Doing all the research that I did, that kind of knowledge seeped in, and do I watch them a little closer? Am I a little more aware? Sure. I think I’ve probably been guilty of being maybe a little naive in thinking everything is going to be fine and I’m probably more vigilant.”
And of course, it has led him to wonder how far he’d go if he was put in the same position.
“But you know, as far as I would go, to be honest my wife would go a lot further, I know that,” he said.
PRISONERS Now showing Village Cinemas ( Eastlands only)